While I was in college, I was playing in an “all important” intramural basketball game. Things were getting rather chippy when it finally happened. Someone on the opposing team punched a player on my team. My teammate fell to the floor, the benches cleared, spectators spilled onto the floor, and instantaneously everyone circled around the two players. All that was missing was the chant of “fight, fight, fight,” like you used to hear on the playground. Then something incredible happened. The young man who was punched looked up to the young man who punched him and simply said, “I forgive you.” Suddenly there was a hushed silence, and the young man who punched him turned and ran out of the gym with tears in his eyes. Never before had I seen such a poignant display of God’s wisdom (Proverbs 15:1), and instruction (Romans 12:21).
Hateful, sarcastic, biting rhetoric may help you “win a debate,” but it won’t help you “win your brother.”
With that memory of mine as a backdrop, I sometimes see brethren, especially preachers of the gospel, figuratively forming circles and chanting, “fight, fight, fight.” I’ve been added to several “preacher’s lists” on Facebook only to read some of the most ill-tempered and quarrelsome dialogues. I’ve also noted that when such vitriolic speech is noted, those who use it are quick to quote Jesus’ words to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. But such a response is no adequate defense. Jesus knew their hearts. His words were carefully chosen and were the absolute truth. We don’t know each others hearts. Therefore when we speak harshly, we usually get it wrong, if not most of the time, some of the time, because we have incorrectly judged another person’s heart.
Hateful, sarcastic, biting rhetoric may help you “win a debate,” but it won’t help you “win your brother.” Can we not defend the truth while at the same time pursue a kinder, gentler brotherhood? May the day come when we learn to enjoy kindness, patience, and longsuffering more than we do “putting someone in their place.” Are there times when people need to be corrected? Hear me, “Yes. Of course.” Don’t dismiss my point by running ahead of me here. But when people need correcting, do we take pleasure in it and give each other a round of “high-fives” for putting them in their place, or might a better response be that of humility and encouraging others to keep the erring brother in prayer?
I’m committed to defending the truth of Jesus Christ, but I’ve lost my taste for the chant of “fight, fight, fight.” I hope you have too. May we all slow down, calm down, and think before we type/speak (James 1:19).
What do you think?